A broken acequia headgate, damaged by floods after the Black Fire, lays in the Mimbres River on Dec. 15, 2022. (Photo by Megan Gleason / Source NM)
The budget signed by Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham on Friday includes relief dollars to help repair destruction for those in southern New Mexico recovering from massive 2022 wildfires.
While Lujan Grisham changed up things in the budget and capital outlay bills, she didn’t touch any of the disaster relief measures that will now be set aside for those affected by the Black and McBride Fires.
The Black Fire was the second-largest fire in the state’s recorded history, ripping apart the Black Range in southwestern New Mexico. The budget allocates $2 million for response and restoration through the Energy, Minerals and Natural Resources Department.
That’s $1 million less than lawmakers requested.
That Gila region also has ranchers and farmers who depend on historic irrigation channels for their livelihoods, which were torn apart by the fire and following floods. The same is true in northern New Mexico with the Hermits Peak-Calf Canyon Fire.
To help acequia stewards, there’s over $1 million in capital outlay funds for the Interstate Stream Commission to use for acequia operations in affected areas like Mora and Grant Counties.
Disaster recovery repair efforts are only specified for one acequia — acequia Madre de Holman in Mora County. However, it’s likely that the other allocated other irrigation dollars can also be used to recover from disasters, according to a legislative fiscal analyst.
A couple hundred miles east of the Gila National Forest, the McBride Fire did major destruction to Ruidoso. The budget and capital outlay bill set aside $6.8 million to fix infrastructure that’s still damaged, like roads, bridges and sewer systems.
That’s less than half of what legislators asked for.
No dollars were allocated in the budget or capital outlay bill to Hermits Peak-Calf Canyon Fire victims because one of the first bills Lujan Grisham signed allocates $100 million for political subdivisions to borrow while they wait for federal funds to come through.
The federal government is paying for the disasters started by the U.S. Forest Service as a result of botched prescribed burns.
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